“You left me without protection a long time ago. You squandered our inheritance. Now, you throw me into the dark by refusing to share that which is important. Move out of my way.” Lucy grabbed the reins that bound the horse to her slender body.
Elan sighed. He quickly pulled a black knife from his pocket and handed it to her.
“Since you wouldn’t let my guards escort you, take this knife, should you encounter men of the night.”
Reluctantly, Lucy collected the short blade and bounced out of the castlette with the nightrider. And a black hood, that covered her face.
When her back had vanished, Elan snapped his fingers and called to one of his guards.
“Follow her, but keep a distance. If anything happens to my sister, I shall feed your head to the wolves of River Mountain.”
The guard bowed in understanding, and rushed to fetch himself a horse.
A feeling of despair came over Elan as he thought of Beauregard’s threats. How could he kill a man like Aldrich? He had never killed a man before! Why would Beau drag him into his inner battle of greed and power?
Beau didn’t have anything to lose in this regard. He was the only person that was endangered. Beau was a sly fox. He seemed innocent on the outside, but his heart was dark.
Elan was about moving into the castle, when he spotted a rider on a golden stallion. The man’s face was shielded by a turban, so he couldn’t see much. Fear gripped Elan’s heart as the man neared the castle gate. He was able to see this much, because of the low fence.
When the black gate opened, the rider with a turban rode in. For the guards to have opened the gate for him, meant that, he was familiar.
“The Baron of Ox- Dale!”
Elan stiffened by this sarcastic salute. When the man pulled off the turban, he realized it was the Duke’s cousin.
“What do you want with me Beauregard? My time is not yet up!”
Beau smiled, the fear in the baron’s eyes was clearly visible.
“Aye, I came here to perfect our strategy. There has been a change in our plans.”
Elan didn’t like the devilish glare he’d spotted in Beau’s eyes. Had Beau suspected that he would tell the Duke of their plans? Had Beauregard come to harm him?

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Darkness had completely taken over the land, only the light of the moon and the blinking of the stars led her through. In a few hours, she would be at Islington with her friend. Lucy wasn’t afraid of what lay ahead as she neared the Woods of Idralia. She had heard stories of bandits building their nest in the Woods. She paused at the entrance and stared at the thick conglomeration of pine trees.
She stared behind and returned her gaze ahead. For some reason, Lucy had a feeling that someone was either watching or following her. Though she couldn’t see anyone, she found it difficult to shake the feeling off.
Her small hands ran over night rider’s long ears as she stroked the stallion. Even the animal was nervous. The Woods of Idralia wasn’t a good place for the night. Lucy closed her eyes and listened to the dark. All she heard were crickets and the song of the wind. It seemed that she was safe.
Lucy was about moving into the Woods when she heard a crying sound. It resembled that of a horse; only that nightrider was in perfect shape. Someone was behind!
Quickly, she jumped off her horse and led it to a tree. She had to hide herself somewhere, in case the traveller was a dangerous person. After tying her horse, Lucy cloaked her face with the hood that came with her dress. She hid behind a bark and watched as a man surfaced from behind. He was heading for the woods, and his eyes were searching for something. They were looking for her!
Her hands tightened around the dagger that her brother had given to her. She pulled out of the covering and was about attacking the man, when she recognized him.
“Elan,” Lucy gritted her teeth. He had sent one of the guards to follow her.
Satisfied, that she wasn’t in any danger, Lucy hopped out of her hiding place and called the guard by name.
The guard almost lost balance as he heard her sharp voice calling out to him. He thought he had lost track of the lady, when he hadn’t seen her or the horse. He feared for his life, as he remembered Elan’s threat.
“Milady!” Francis sighed.
“You were following me, for how long?” Lucy pointed her knife at him, as if she meant to stab him.
“The baron asked me to follow you. He was concerned about your safety. I was asked to keep a distance, but my horse is very fast.” The guard explained.
Lucy watched his eyes carefully.
“Are you alone?”
He nodded, “Yes.”
Lucy sighed and tucked back the blade in its sheath.
“Islington is close. You must return home. I do not want your protection. I will not treat Elan kindly for what he has done to me.”
“I cannot disobey the baron. He will have my head…”The guard trailed off. He wasn’t concerned with the misunderstanding between the baron and his sister. All he wanted was to keep her safe, and alive.
“I am not asking you to disobey him. Ride back to the castlette and tell him that I am safe!”
The guard stiffened at the thought of returning to Ox-Dale. He had to find a way to convince Lucy that she needed his help.
“The baron means well for you. He may be in danger as well. He preferred that you left first.”
Lucy’s heart raced when she heard this.
“I do not understand, is my brother in danger?”
“Aye. As I left the castlette, I saw a rider on a golden horse and a turban. His eyes flamed with anger. And he carried the sharpest blade that I have ever seen. We must ride for Islington before it is too late. The baron wants you to be safe.”
Unknown to him, this plan of his would backfire.
Lucy couldn’t believe her ears. So, Elan had been telling her the truth all this time? Truly, his life had been in danger.
“We must ride back to Ox-Dale. I would not run like a coward. I know my brother is not perfect. He has his flaws and weaknesses. But I will not allow anyone to harm him, not in my absence.”
Lucy loved her brother very much. They were alone in the world now. She’d rather die by Elan’s side, than away from him.
“We cannot…” The guard tried to argue.
“We can!” Lucy yelled in a loud voice.
When she was about to untie her horse, they both heard the hooves of a horse trampling on the silence of the night. Another rider was coming.
The duo exchanged glares, with Francis pulling out his sword. Lucy had no option but to take out her knife. The Woods harboured all sorts of criminals. They had to protect themselves.

To be continued…

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